Attest Engagements 1261

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1 Attest Engagements 1261 AT Section 101 Attest Engagements Source: SSAE No. 10; SSAE No. 11; SSAE No. 12; SSAE No. 14. See section 9101 for interpretations of this section. Effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after June 1, 2001, unless otherwise indicated. Applicability.01 This section applies to engagements, except for those services discussed in paragraph.04, in which a certified public accountant in public practice 1 (hereinafter referred to as a practitioner) is engaged to issue or does issue an examination, a review, or an agreed-upon procedures report on subject matter, or an assertion about the subject matter (hereafter referred to as the assertion), that is the responsibility of another party. 2 [Revised, January 2015, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of the revised AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, effective December 15, 2014.].02 This section establishes a framework for attest 3 engagements performed by practitioners and for the ongoing development of related standards. For certain subject matter, specific attestation standards have been developed to provide additional requirements for engagement performance and reporting..03 When a practitioner undertakes an attest engagement for the benefit of a government body or agency and agrees to follow specified government standards, guides, procedures, statutes, rules, and regulations, the practitioner is obliged to follow those governmental requirements as well as the applicable attestation standards..04 Professional services provided by practitioners that are not covered by this SSAE include the following: a. Services performed in accordance with Statements on Auditing Standards (SASs) b. Services performed in accordance with Statements on Standards for Accounting and Review Services (SSARSs) c. Services performed in accordance with the Statement on Standards for Consulting Services (SSCS), such as engagements in which the practitioner's role is solely to assist the client (for example, acting as the company accountant in preparing information other than financial 1 For a definition of the term public practice, see ET section 0.400, Definitions. [Footnote revised, January 2015, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of the revised AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, effective December 15, 2014.] 2 See paragraph.02 of section 301, Financial Forecasts and Projections, for additional guidance on applicability when engaged to provide an attest service on a financial forecast or projection. 3 The term attest and its variants, such as attesting and attestation, are used in a number of state accountancy laws, and in regulations issued by state boards of accountancy under such laws, for different purposes and with different meanings from those intended by this section. Consequently, the definition of attest engagements set out in paragraph.01, and the attendant meaning of attest and attestation as used throughout the section, should not be understood as defining these terms and similar terms, as they are used in any law or regulation, nor as embodying a common understanding of the terms which may also be reflected in such laws or regulations. 2015, AICPA AT

2 1262 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements statements), or engagements in which a practitioner is engaged to testify as an expert witness in accounting, auditing, taxation, or other matters, given certain stipulated facts d. Engagements in which the practitioner is engaged to advocate a client's position for example, tax matters being reviewed by the Internal Revenue Service e. Tax engagements in which a practitioner is engaged to prepare tax returns or provide tax advice.05 An attest engagement may be part of a larger engagement, for example, a feasibility study or business acquisition study may also include an examination of prospective financial information. In such circumstances, these standards apply only to the attest portion of the engagement..06 Any professional service resulting in the expression of assurance must be performed under AICPA professional standards that provide for the expression of such assurance. Reports issued by a practitioner in connection with other professional standards should be written to be clearly distinguishable from and not to be confused with attest reports. For example, a practitioner performing an engagement which is intended solely to assist an organization in improving its controls over the privacy of client data should not issue a report as a result of that engagement expressing assurance as to the effectiveness of such controls. Additionally, a report that merely excludes the words, "...was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants..." but is otherwise similar to an examination, a review or an agreed-upon procedures attest report may be inferred to be an attest report. Definitions and Underlying Concepts Subject Matter.07 The subject matter of an attest engagement may take many forms, including the following: a. Historical or prospective performance or condition (for example, historical or prospective financial information, performance measurements, and backlog data) b. Physical characteristics (for example, narrative descriptions, square footage of facilities) c. Historical events (for example, the price of a market basket of goods on a certain date) d. Analyses (for example, break-even analyses) e. Systems and processes (for example, internal control) f. Behavior (for example, corporate governance, compliance with laws and regulations, and human resource practices) The subject matter may be as of a point in time or for a period of time. Assertion.08 An assertion is any declaration or set of declarations about whether the subject matter is based on or in conformity with the criteria selected..09 A practitioner may report on a written assertion or may report directly on the subject matter. In either case, the practitioner should ordinarily obtain a written assertion in an examination or a review engagement. A written assertion may be presented to a practitioner in a number of ways, such AT , AICPA

3 Attest Engagements 1263 as in a narrative description, within a schedule, or as part of a representation letter appropriately identifying what is being presented and the point in time or period of time covered..10 When a written assertion has not been obtained, a practitioner may still report on the subject matter; however, the form of the report will vary depending on the circumstances and its use should be restricted. 4 In this section, see paragraphs.58 and.60 on gathering sufficient evidence and paragraphs and for reporting guidance. Responsible Party.11 The responsible party is defined as the person or persons, either as individuals or representatives of the entity, responsible for the subject matter. If the nature of the subject matter is such that no such party exists, a party who has a reasonable basis for making a written assertion about the subject matter may provide such an assertion (hereinafter referred to as the responsible party)..12 The practitioner may be engaged to gather information to enable the responsible party to evaluate the subject matter in connection with providing a written assertion. Regardless of the procedures performed by the practitioner, the responsible party must accept responsibility for its assertion and the subject matter and must not base its assertion solely on the practitioner's procedures Because the practitioner's role in an attest engagement is that of an attester, the practitioner should not take on the role of the responsible party in an attest engagement. Therefore, the need to clearly identify a responsible party is a prerequisite for an attest engagement. A practitioner may accept an engagement to perform an examination, a review or an agreed-upon procedures engagement on subject matter or an assertion related thereto provided that one of the following conditions is met. a. The party wishing to engage the practitioner is responsible for the subject matter, or has a reasonable basis for providing a written assertion about the subject matter if the nature of the subject matter is such that a responsible party does not otherwise exist. b. The party wishing to engage the practitioner is not responsible for the subject matter but is able to provide the practitioner, or have a third party who is responsible for the subject matter provide the practitioner, with evidence of the third party's responsibility for the subject matter..14 The practitioner should obtain written acknowledgment or other evidence of the responsible party's responsibility for the subject matter, or the written assertion, as it relates to the objective of the engagement. The responsible party can acknowledge that responsibility in a number of ways, for example, in an engagement letter, a representation letter, or the presentation of the subject matter, including the notes thereto, or the written assertion. If the practitioner is not able to directly obtain written acknowledgment, the practitioner should obtain other evidence of the responsible party's responsibility for the subject matter (for example, by reference to legislation, a regulation, or a contract). 4 When the practitioner is unable to perform the inquiry and analytical or other procedures that he or she considers necessary to achieve the limited assurance contemplated by a review, or when the client is the responsible party and does not provide the practitioner with a written assertion, the review will be incomplete. A review that is incomplete is not an adequate basis for issuing a review report and, accordingly, the practitioner should withdraw from the engagement. 5 See paragraph.112 regarding the practitioner's assistance in developing subject matter or criteria. 2015, AICPA AT

4 1264 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements Applicability to Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements.15 An agreed-upon procedures attest engagement is one in which a practitioner is engaged to issue a report of findings based on specific procedures performed on subject matter. The general, fieldwork, and reporting standards for attest engagements set forth in this section are applicable to agreed-upon procedures engagements. Because the application of these standards to agreed-upon procedures engagements is discussed in section 201, Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements, such engagements are not discussed further in this section. The Relationship of Attestation Standards to Quality Control Standards.16 The practitioner is responsible for compliance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (AICPA's) Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAEs) in an attest engagement. The "Compliance With Standards Rule" (ET sec ) of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct requires members to comply with such standards when conducting professional services. [Revised, January 2015, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of the revised AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, effective December 15, 2014.].17 A firm of practitioners has a responsibility to adopt a system of quality control in the conduct of a firm's attest practice. 6 Thus, a firm should establish quality control policies and procedures to provide it with reasonable assurance that its personnel comply with the attestation standards in its attest engagements. The nature and extent of a firm's quality control policies and procedures depend on factors such as its size, the degree of operating autonomy allowed its personnel and its practice offices, the nature of its practice, its organization, and appropriate cost-benefit considerations. [As amended, effective September 2002, by SSAE No. 12.].18 Attestation standards relate to the conduct of individual attest engagements; quality control standards relate to the conduct of a firm's attest practice as a whole. Thus, attestation standards and quality control standards are related and the quality control policies and procedures that a firm adopts may affect both the conduct of individual attest engagements and the conduct of a firm's attest practice as a whole. However, deficiencies in or instances of noncompliance with a firm's quality control policies and procedures do not, in and of themselves, indicate that a particular engagement was not performed in accordance with attestation standards. [As amended, effective September 2002, by SSAE No. 12.] General Standards Training and Proficiency.19 The first general standard is The practitioner must have adequate technical training and proficiency to perform the attestation engagement. [As 6 The elements of a system of quality control are identified in Statement on Quality Control Standards (SQCS) No. 8, A Firm's System of Quality Control (QC sec. 10). A system of quality control consists of policies designed to provide the firm with reasonable assurance that the firm and its personnel comply with professional standards and applicable legal and regulatory requirements and that reports issued by the firm are appropriate in the circumstances, and the procedures necessary to implement and monitor compliance with those policies. [As amended, effective September 2002, by SSAE No. 12. Footnote amended due to the issuance of SQCS No. 7, December 2008.] AT , AICPA

5 Attest Engagements 1265 amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].20 Performing attest services is different from preparing and presenting subject matter or an assertion. The latter involves collecting, classifying, summarizing, and communicating information; this usually entails reducing a mass of detailed data to a manageable and understandable form. On the other hand, performing attest services involves gathering evidence to support the subject matter or the assertion and objectively assessing the measurements and communications of the responsible party. Thus, attest services are analytical, critical, investigative, and are concerned with the basis and support for the subject matter or the assertion. Adequate Knowledge of Subject Matter.21 The second general standard is The practitioner must have adequate knowledge of the subject matter. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].22 A practitioner may obtain adequate knowledge of the subject matter through formal or continuing education, including self-study, or through practical experience. However, this standard does not necessarily require a practitioner to personally acquire all of the necessary knowledge in the subject matter to be qualified to express a conclusion. This knowledge requirement may be met, in part, through the use of one or more specialists on a particular attest engagement if the practitioner has sufficient knowledge of the subject matter (a) to communicate to the specialist the objectives of the work and (b) to evaluate the specialist's work to determine if the objectives were achieved. Suitability and Availability of Criteria.23 The third general standard is The practitioner must have reason to believe that the subject matter is capable of evaluation against criteria that are suitable and available to users. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.] Suitability of Criteria.24 Criteria are the standards or benchmarks used to measure and present the subject matter and against which the practitioner evaluates the subject matter. * Suitable criteria must have each of the following attributes: Objectivity Criteria should be free from bias. Measurability Criteria should permit reasonably consistent measurements, qualitative or quantitative, of subject matter. Completeness Criteria should be sufficiently complete so that those relevant factors that would alter a conclusion about subject matter are not omitted. Relevance Criteria should be relevant to the subject matter. * An example of suitable criteria are the Trust Services criteria developed by the AICPA's Assurance Services Executive Committee. These criteria may be used when the subject matter of the engagement is the security, availability, or processing integrity of a system, or the confidentiality or privacy of the information processed or stored by that system. The Trust Services criteria are presented in TSP sections 100 and 200 of the AICPA's Trust Services Principles and Criteria. [Footnote added by the Assurance Services Executive Committee, January Footnote revised, May 2006, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of Generally Accepted Privacy Principles.] 2015, AICPA AT

6 1266 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.25 Criteria that are established or developed by groups composed of experts that follow due process procedures, including exposure of the proposed criteria for public comment, ordinarily should be considered suitable. Criteria promulgated by a body designated by the AICPA Governing Council under the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct are, by definition, considered to be suitable..26 Criteria may be established or developed by the client, the responsible party, industry associations, or other groups that do not follow due process procedures or do not as clearly represent. the public interest. To determine whether these criteria are suitable, the practitioner should evaluate them based on the attributes described in paragraph Regardless of who establishes or develops the criteria, the responsible party or the client is responsible for selecting the criteria and the client is responsible for determining that such criteria are appropriate for its purposes..28 The use of suitable criteria does not presume that all persons or groups would be expected to select the same criteria in evaluating the same subject matter. There may be more than one set of suitable criteria for a given subject matter. For example, in an engagement to express assurance about customer satisfaction, a responsible party may select as a criterion for customer satisfaction that all customer complaints are resolved to the satisfaction of the customer. In other cases, another responsible party may select a different criterion, such as the number of repeat purchases in the three months following the initial purchase..29 In evaluating the measurability attribute as described in paragraph.24, the practitioner should consider whether the criteria are sufficiently precise to permit people having competence in and using the same measurement criterion to be able to ordinarily obtain materially similar measurements. Consequently, practitioners should not perform an engagement when the criteria are so subjective or vague that reasonably consistent measurements, qualitative or quantitative, of subject matter cannot ordinarily be obtained. However, practitioners will not always reach the same conclusion because such evaluations often require the exercise of considerable professional judgment..30 For the purpose of assessing whether the use of particular criteria can be expected to yield reasonably consistent measurement and evaluation, consideration should be given to the nature of the subject matter. For example, soft information, such as forecasts or projections, would be expected to have a wider range of reasonable estimates than hard data, such as the calculated investment performance of a defined portfolio of managed investment products..31 Some criteria may be appropriate for only a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria. For instance, criteria set forth in a lease agreement for override payments may be appropriate only for reporting to the parties to the agreement because of the likelihood that such criteria would be misunderstood or misinterpreted by parties other than those who have specifically agreed to the criteria. Such criteria can be agreed upon directly by the parties or through a designated representative. If a practitioner determines that such criteria are appropriate only for a limited number of parties, the use of the report should be restricted to those specified parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria..32 The third general standard in paragraph.23 applies equally regardless of the level of the attest service to be provided. Consequently, it is inappropriate to perform a review engagement if the practitioner concludes that an AT , AICPA

7 Attest Engagements 1267 examination cannot be performed because competent persons using the same criteria would not be able to obtain materially similar evaluations. Availability of Criteria.33 The criteria should be available to users in one or more of the following ways: a. Available publicly b. Available to all users through inclusion in a clear manner in the presentation of the subject matter or in the assertion c. Available to all users through inclusion in a clear manner in the practitioner's report d. Well understood by most users, although not formally available (for example, "The distance between points A and B is twenty feet;" the criterion of distance measured in feet is considered to be well understood) e. Available only to specified parties; for example, terms of a contract or criteria issued by an industry association that are available only to those in the industry.34 If criteria are only available to specified parties, the practitioner's report should be restricted to those parties who have access to the criteria as described in paragraphs.78 and.80. Independence.35 The fourth general standard is The practitioner must maintain independence in mental attitude in all matters relating to the engagement. 7 [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].36 The practitioner should maintain the intellectual honesty and impartiality necessary to reach an unbiased conclusion about the subject matter or the assertion. This is a cornerstone of the attest function..37 In the final analysis, independence in mental attitude means objective consideration of facts, unbiased judgments, and honest neutrality on the part of the practitioner in forming and expressing conclusions. It implies not the attitude of an advocate or an adversary but an impartiality that recognizes an obligation for fairness. Independence in mental attitude presumes an undeviating concern for an unbiased conclusion about the subject matter or an assertion no matter what the subject matter or the assertion may be..38 The profession has established, through the AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct, precepts to guard against the presumption of loss of independence. Presumption is stressed because the possession of intrinsic independence is a matter of personal quality rather than of rules that formulate certain objective tests. Insofar as these precepts have been incorporated in the 7 The practitioner performing an attest engagement should be independent pursuant to "Independence Rule" (ET sec ) of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. The "Independence Standards for Engagements Performed in Accordance With Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements" subtopic (ET sec ) provides guidance about its application to certain attest engagements. [Footnote revised, December 2012, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the revision of Ethics Interpretation Footnote revised, January 2015, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of the revised AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, effective December 15, 2014.] 2015, AICPA AT

8 1268 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements profession's code, they have the force of professional law for the independent practitioner. Due Professional Care.39 The fifth general standard is The practitioner must exercise due professional care in the planning and performance of the engagement and the preparation of the report. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].40 Due professional care imposes a responsibility on each practitioner involved with the engagement to observe each of the attestation standards. Exercise of due professional care requires critical review at every level of supervision of the work done and the judgment exercised by those assisting in the engagement, including the preparation of the report..41 Cooley on Torts, a legal treatise, describes the obligation for due care as follows: Every man who offers his services to another and is employed assumes the duty to exercise in the employment such skill as he possesses with reasonable care and diligence. In all these employments where peculiar skill is requisite, if one offers his services, he is understood as holding himself out to the public as possessing the degree of skill commonly possessed by others in the same employment, and if his pretentions are unfounded, he commits a species of fraud upon every man who employs him in reliance on his public profession. But no man, whether skilled or unskilled, undertakes that the task he assumes shall be performed successfully, and without fault or error; he undertakes for good faith and integrity, but not for infallibility, and he is liable to his employer for negligence, bad faith, or dishonesty, but not for losses consequent upon mere errors of judgment. 8 Standards of Fieldwork Planning and Supervision.42 The first standard of fieldwork is The practitioner must adequately plan the work and must properly supervise any assistants. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].43 Proper planning and supervision contribute to the effectiveness of attest procedures. Proper planning directly influences the selection of appropriate procedures and the timeliness of their application, and proper supervision helps ensure that planned procedures are appropriately applied..44 Planning an attest engagement involves developing an overall strategy for the expected conduct and scope of the engagement. To develop such a strategy, practitioners need to have sufficient knowledge to enable them to understand adequately the events, transactions, and practices that, in their judgment, have a significant effect on the subject matter or the assertion..45 Factors to be considered by the practitioner in planning an attest engagement include the following: a. The criteria to be used 8 D. Haggard, Cooley on Torts, 472 (4th ed., 1932). AT , AICPA

9 Attest Engagements 1269 b. Preliminary judgments about attestation risk 9 and materiality for attest purposes c. The nature of the subject matter or the items within the assertion that are likely to require revision or adjustment d. Conditions that may require extension or modification of attest procedures e. The nature of the report expected to be issued.46 The practitioner should establish an understanding with the client regarding the services to be performed for each engagement. 10 Such an understanding reduces the risk that either the practitioner or the client may misinterpret the needs or expectations of the other party. For example, it reduces the risk that the client may inappropriately rely on the practitioner to protect the entity against certain risks or to perform certain functions that are the client's responsibility. The understanding should include the objectives of the engagement, management's responsibilities, the practitioner's responsibilities, and limitations of the engagement. The practitioner should document the understanding in the working papers, preferably through a written communication with the client. If the practitioner believes an understanding with the client has not been established, he or she should decline to accept or perform the engagement..47 The nature, extent, and timing of planning will vary with the nature and complexity of the subject matter or the assertion and the practitioner's prior experience with management. As part of the planning process, the practitioner should consider the nature, extent, and timing of the work to be performed to accomplish the objectives of the attest engagement. Nevertheless, as the attest engagement progresses, changed conditions may make it necessary to modify planned procedures..48 Supervision involves directing the efforts of assistants who participate in accomplishing the objectives of the attest engagement and determining whether those objectives were accomplished. Elements of supervision include instructing assistants, staying informed of significant problems encountered, reviewing the work performed, and dealing with differences of opinion among personnel. The extent of supervision appropriate in a given instance depends on many factors, including the nature and complexity of the subject matter and the qualifications of the persons performing the work..49 Assistants should be informed of their responsibilities, including the objectives of the procedures that they are to perform and matters that may affect the nature, extent, and timing of such procedures. The practitioner with final responsibility for the engagement should direct assistants to bring to his or her attention significant questions raised during the attest engagement so that their significance may be assessed..50 The work performed by each assistant should be reviewed to determine whether it was adequately performed and to evaluate whether the results are consistent with the conclusion to be presented in the practitioner's report. 9 Attestation risk is the risk that the practitioner may unknowingly fail to appropriately modify his or her attest report on the subject matter or an assertion that is materially misstated. It consists of (a) the risk (consisting of inherent risk and control risk) that the subject matter or assertion contains deviations or misstatements that could be material and (b) the risk that the practitioner will not detect such deviations or misstatements (detection risk). 10 See paragraph 29 of SQCS No. 8. [Footnote amended due to the issuance of SQCS No. 7, December Footnote revised, December 2012, due to the issuance of SQCS No. 8.] 2015, AICPA AT

10 1270 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements Obtaining Sufficient Evidence.51 The second standard of fieldwork is The practitioner must obtain sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable basis for the conclusion that is expressed in the report. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].52 Selecting and applying procedures that will accumulate evidence that is sufficient in the circumstances to provide a reasonable basis for the level of assurance to be expressed in the attest report requires the careful exercise of professional judgment. A broad array of available procedures may be applied in an attest engagement. In establishing a proper combination of procedures to appropriately restrict attestation risk, the practitioner should consider the following presumptions, bearing in mind that they are not mutually exclusive and may be subject to important exceptions. a. Evidence obtained from independent sources outside an entity provides greater assurance about the subject matter or the assertion than evidence secured solely from within the entity. b. Information obtained from the independent attester's direct personal knowledge (such as through physical examination, observation, computation, operating tests, or inspection) is more persuasive than information obtained indirectly. c. The more effective the controls over the subject matter, the more assurance they provide about the subject matter or the assertion..53 Thus, in the hierarchy of available attest procedures, those that involve search and verification (for example, inspection, confirmation, or observation), particularly when using independent sources outside the entity, are generally more effective in restricting attestation risk than those involving internal inquiries and comparisons of internal information (for example, analytical procedures and discussions with individuals responsible for the subject matter or the assertion). On the other hand, the latter are generally less costly to apply..54 In an attest engagement designed to provide a high level of assurance (referred to as an examination), the practitioner's objective is to accumulate sufficient evidence to restrict attestation risk to a level that is, in the practitioner's professional judgment, appropriately low for the high level of assurance that may be imparted by his or her report. In such an engagement, a practitioner should select from all available procedures that is, procedures that assess inherent and control risk and restrict detection risk any combination that can restrict attestation risk to such an appropriately low level..55 In an attest engagement designed to provide a moderate level of assurance (referred to as a review), the objective is to accumulate sufficient evidence to restrict attestation risk to a moderate level. To accomplish this, the types of procedures performed generally are limited to inquiries and analytical procedures (rather than also including search and verification procedures)..56 Nevertheless, there will be circumstances in which inquiry and analytical procedures (a) cannot be performed, (b) are deemed less efficient than other procedures, or (c) yield evidence indicating that the subject matter or the assertion may be incomplete or inaccurate. In the first circumstance, the practitioner should perform other procedures that he or she believes can provide him or her with a level of assurance equivalent to that which inquiries and analytical procedures would have provided. In the second circumstance, AT , AICPA

11 Attest Engagements 1271 the practitioner may perform other procedures that he or she believes would be more efficient to provide him or her with a level of assurance equivalent to that which inquiries and analytical procedures would provide. In the third circumstance, the practitioner should perform additional procedures..57 The extent to which attestation procedures will be performed should be based on the level of assurance to be provided and the practitioner's consideration of (a) the nature and materiality of the information to be tested to the subject matter or the assertion taken as a whole, (b) the likelihood of misstatements, (c) knowledge obtained during current and previous engagements, (d) the responsible party's competence in the subject matter, (e) the extent to which the information is affected by the asserter's judgment, and (f) inadequacies in the responsible party's underlying data..58 As part of the attestation procedures, the practitioner considers the written assertion ordinarily provided by the responsible party. If a written assertion cannot be obtained from the responsible party, the practitioner should consider the effects on his or her ability to obtain sufficient evidence to form a conclusion about the subject matter. When the practitioner's client is the responsible party, a failure to obtain a written assertion should result in the practitioner concluding that a scope limitation exists. 11 When the practitioner's client is not the responsible party and a written assertion is not provided, the practitioner may be able to conclude that he or she has sufficient evidence to form a conclusion about the subject matter. Representation Letter.59 During an attest engagement, the responsible party makes many representations to the practitioner, both oral and written, in response to specific inquiries or through the presentation of subject matter or an assertion. Such representations from the responsible party are part of the evidential matter the practitioner obtains..60 Written representations from the responsible party ordinarily confirm representations explicitly or implicitly given to the practitioner, indicate and document the continuing appropriateness of such representations, and reduce the possibility of misunderstanding concerning the matters that are the subject of the representations. Accordingly, in an examination or a review engagement, a practitioner should consider obtaining a representation letter from the responsible party. Examples of matters that might appear in such a representation letter include the following: 12 a. A statement acknowledging responsibility for the subject matter and, when applicable, the assertion b. A statement acknowledging responsibility for selecting the criteria, where applicable 11 When the client is the responsible party, it is presumed that the client will be capable of providing the practitioner with a written assertion regarding the subject matter. Failure to provide the written assertion in this circumstance is a client-imposed limitation on the practitioner's evidencegathering efforts. In an examination, the practitioner should modify the report for the scope limitation. In a review engagement, such a scope limitation results in an incomplete review and the practitioner should withdraw from the engagement. 12 Specific written representations will depend on the circumstances of the engagement (for example, whether the client is the responsible party) and the nature of the subject matter and the criteria. For example, when the client is not the responsible party but has selected the criteria, the practitioner might obtain the representation regarding responsibility for selection of the criteria from the client rather than the responsible party (see paragraph.61). 2015, AICPA AT

12 1272 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements c. A statement acknowledging responsibility for determining that such criteria are appropriate for its purposes, where the responsible party is the client d. The assertion about the subject matter based on the criteria selected e. A statement that all known matters contradicting the assertion and any communication from regulatory agencies affecting the subject matter or the assertion have been disclosed to the practitioner f. Availability of all records relevant to the subject matter g. A statement that any known events subsequent to the period (or point in time) of the subject matter being reported on that would have a material effect on the subject matter (or, if applicable, the assertion) have been disclosed to the practitioner h. Other matters as the practitioner deems appropriate.61 When the client is not the responsible party, the practitioner should consider obtaining a letter of written representations from the client as part of the attest engagement. Examples of matters that might appear in such a representation letter include the following: a. A statement that any known events subsequent to the period (or point in time) of the subject matter being reported on that would have a material effect on the subject matter (or, if applicable, the assertion) have been disclosed to the practitioner b. A statement acknowledging the client's responsibility for selecting the criteria, where applicable c. A statement acknowledging the client's responsibility for determining that such criteria are appropriate for its purposes d. Other matters as the practitioner deems appropriate.62 If the responsible party or the client refuses to furnish all written representations that the practitioner deems necessary, the practitioner should consider the effects of such a refusal on his or her ability to issue a conclusion about the subject matter. If the practitioner believes that the representation letter is necessary to obtain sufficient evidence to issue a report, the responsible party's or the client's refusal to furnish such evidence in the form of written representations constitutes a limitation on the scope of an examination sufficient to preclude an unqualified opinion and is ordinarily sufficient to cause the practitioner to disclaim an opinion or withdraw from an examination engagement. However, based on the nature of the representations not obtained or the circumstances of the refusal, the practitioner may conclude, in an examination engagement, that a qualified opinion is appropriate. Further, the practitioner should consider the effects of the refusal on his or her ability to rely on other representations. When a scope limitation exists in a review engagement, the practitioner should withdraw from the engagement. (See paragraph.75.) Standards of Reporting The first standard of reporting is The practitioner must identify the subject matter or the assertion being reported on and state the character of the engagement in the report. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.] 13 The reporting standards apply only when the practitioner issues a report. [Footnote added, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.] AT , AICPA

13 Attest Engagements The practitioner who accepts an attest engagement should issue a report on the subject matter or the assertion or withdraw from the attest engagement. If the practitioner is reporting on the assertion, the assertion should be bound with or accompany the practitioner's report or the assertion should be clearly stated in the practitioner's report The statement of the character of an attest engagement includes the following two elements: (a) a description of the nature and scope of the work performed and (b) a reference to the professional standards governing the engagement. The terms examination and review should be used to describe engagements to provide, respectively, a high level and a moderate level of assurance. The reference to professional standards should be accomplished by referring to "attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.".66 The second standard of reporting is The practitioner must state the practitioner's conclusion about the subject matter or the assertion in relation to the criteria against which the subject matter was evaluated in the report. However, if conditions exist that, individually or in combination, result in one or more material misstatements or deviations from the criteria, the practitioner should modify the report and, to most effectively communicate with the reader of the report, should ordinarily express his or her conclusion directly on the subject matter, 15 not on the assertion. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].67 The practitioner should consider the concept of materiality in applying this standard. In expressing a conclusion, the practitioner should consider an omission or a misstatement to be material if the omission or misstatement individually or when aggregated with others is such that a reasonable person would be influenced by the omission or misstatement. The practitioner should consider both qualitative and quantitative aspects of omissions and misstatements..68 The term general use applies to attest reports that are not restricted to specified parties. General-use attest reports should be limited to two levels of assurance: one based on a restriction of attestation risk to an appropriately low level (an examination) and the other based on a restriction of attestation risk to a moderate level (a review). In an engagement to achieve a high level of assurance (an examination), the practitioner's conclusion should be expressed in the form of an opinion. When attestation risk has been restricted only to a moderate level (a review), the conclusion should be expressed in the form of negative assurance..69 A practitioner may report on subject matter or an assertion at multiple dates or covering multiple periods during which criteria have changed (for example, a report on comparative information). In those circumstances, the practitioner should determine whether the criteria are clearly stated or described for each of the dates or periods, and whether the changes have been adequately disclosed. 14 The use of a "hot link" within the practitioner's report to management's assertion, such as might be used in a WebTrust SM report, would meet this requirement. [Footnote renumbered by the issuance of SSAE No. 14, November 2006.] 15 Specific standards may require that the practitioner express his or her conclusion directly on the subject matter. For example, if management states in its assertion that a material weakness exists in the entity's internal control over financial reporting, the practitioner should state his or her opinion directly on the effectiveness of internal control, not on management's assertion related thereto. [Footnote renumbered by the issuance of SSAE No. 14, November 2006.] 2015, AICPA AT

14 1274 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.70 If the criteria used for the subject matter for the current date or period differ from those criteria used for the subject matter for a preceding date or period and the subject matter for the prior date or period is not presented, the practitioner should consider whether the changes in criteria are likely to be significant to users of the report. If so, the practitioner should determine whether the criteria are clearly stated or described and the fact that the criteria have changed is disclosed. (See paragraphs ).71 The third standard of reporting is The practitioner must state all of the practitioner's significant reservations about the engagement, the subject matter, and, if applicable, the assertion related thereto in the report. [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].72 Reservations about the engagement refers to any unresolved problem that the practitioner had in complying with these attestation standards, interpretive standards, or the specific procedures agreed to by the specified parties. The practitioner should not express an unqualified conclusion unless the engagement has been conducted in accordance with the attestation standards. Such standards will not have been complied with if the practitioner has been unable to apply all the procedures that he or she considers necessary in the circumstances..73 Restrictions on the scope of an engagement, whether imposed by the client or by such other circumstances as the timing of the work or the inability to obtain sufficient evidence, may require the practitioner to qualify the assurance provided, to disclaim any assurance, or to withdraw from the engagement. For example, if the practitioner's client is the responsible party, a failure to obtain a written assertion should result in the practitioner concluding that a scope limitation exists. (See paragraph.58.).74 The practitioner's decision to provide a qualified opinion, to disclaim an opinion, or to withdraw because of a scope limitation in an examination engagement depends on an assessment of the effect of the omitted procedure(s) on his or her ability to express assurance. This assessment will be affected by the nature and magnitude of the potential effects of the matters in question, and by their significance to the subject matter or the assertion. If the potential effects are pervasive to the subject matter or the assertion, a disclaimer or withdrawal is more likely to be appropriate. When restrictions that significantly limit the scope of the engagement are imposed by the client or the responsible party, the practitioner generally should disclaim an opinion or withdraw from the engagement. The reasons for a qualification or disclaimer should be described in the practitioner's report..75 In a review engagement, when the practitioner is unable to perform the inquiry and analytical or other procedures he or she considers necessary to achieve the limited assurance contemplated by a review, or when the client is the responsible party and does not provide the practitioner with a written assertion, the review will be incomplete. A review that is incomplete is not an adequate basis for issuing a review report and, accordingly, the practitioner should withdraw from the engagement..76 Reservations about the subject matter or the assertion refers to any unresolved reservation about the assertion or about the conformity of the subject matter with the criteria, including the adequacy of the disclosure of material matters. They can result in either a qualified or an adverse opinion, depending on the materiality of the departure from the criteria against which the subject AT , AICPA

15 Attest Engagements 1275 matter or the assertion was evaluated, or a modified conclusion in a review engagement..77 Reservations about the subject matter or the assertion may relate to the measurement, form, arrangement, content, or underlying judgments and assumptions applicable to the subject matter or the assertion and its appended notes, including, for example, the terminology used, the amount of detail given, the classification of items, and the bases of amounts set forth. The practitioner considers whether a particular reservation should affect the report given the circumstances and facts of which he or she is aware at the time..78 The fourth standard of reporting is The practitioner must state in the report that the report is intended solely for the information and use of the specified parties under the following circumstances: When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to specified parties When reporting on subject matter and a written assertion has not been provided by the responsible party When the report is on an attestation engagement to apply agreed-upon procedures to the subject matter [As amended, effective when the subject matter or assertion is as of or for a period ending on or after December 15, 2006, by SSAE No. 14.].79 The need for restriction on the use of a report may result from a number of circumstances, including the purpose of the report, the criteria used in preparation of the subject matter, the extent to which the procedures performed are known or understood, and the potential for the report to be misunderstood when taken out of the context in which it was intended to be used. A practitioner should consider informing his or her client that restricted-use reports are not intended for distribution to nonspecified parties, regardless of whether they are included in a document containing a separate general-use report. 16,17 However, a practitioner is not responsible for controlling a client's distribution of restricted-use reports. Accordingly, a restricted-use report should alert readers to the restriction on the use of the report by indicating that the report is not intended to be and should not be used by anyone other than the specified parties..80 An attest report that is restricted as to use should contain a separate paragraph at the end of the report that includes the following elements: a. A statement indicating that the report is intended solely for the information and use of the specified parties 16 In some cases, restricted-use reports filed with regulatory agencies are required by law or regulation to be made available to the public as a matter of public record. Also, a regulatory agency as part of its oversight responsibility for an entity may require access to restricted-use reports in which they are not named as a specified party. [Footnote renumbered by the issuance of SSAE No. 14, November 2006.] 17 This section does not preclude the practitioner, in connection with establishing the terms of the engagement, from reaching an understanding with the client that the intended use of the report will be restricted, and from obtaining the client's agreement that the client and the specified parties will not distribute the report to parties other than those identified in the report. [Footnote renumbered by the issuance of SSAE No. 14, November 2006.] 2015, AICPA AT

16 1276 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements b. An identification of the specified parties to whom use is restricted c. A statement that the report is not intended to be and should not be used by anyone other than the specified parties An example of such a paragraph is the following. This report is intended solely for the information and use of [the specified parties] and is not intended to be and should not be used by anyone other than these specified parties..81 Other attestation standards may specify situations that require restricted reports such as the following: a. A review report on management's discussion and analysis b. A report on prospective financial information when the report is intended for use by the responsible party alone, or by the responsible party and third parties with whom the responsible party is negotiating directly, as described in paragraph.10 of section 301, Financial Forecasts and Projections. Furthermore, nothing in this section precludes a practitioner from restricting the use of any report..82 If a practitioner issues a single combined report covering both (a) subject matter or presentations that require a restriction on use to specified parties and (b) subject matter or presentations that ordinarily do not require such a restriction, the use of such a single combined report should be restricted to the specified parties..83 In some instances, a separate restricted-use report may be included in a document that also contains a general-use report. The inclusion of a separate restricted-use report in a document that contains a general-use report does not affect the intended use of either report. The restricted-use report remains restricted as to use, and the general-use report continues to be for general use. Examination Reports.84 When expressing an opinion, the practitioner should clearly state whether, in his or her opinion, (a) the subject matter is based on (or in conformity with) the criteria in all material respects or (b) the assertion is presented (or fairly stated), in all material respects, based on the criteria. Reports expressing an opinion may be qualified or modified for some aspect of the subject matter, the assertion or the engagement (see the third reporting standard). However, as stated in paragraph.66, if conditions exist that, individually or in combination, result in one or more material misstatements or deviations from the criteria, the practitioner should modify the report and, to most effectively communicate with the reader of the report, should ordinarily express his or her conclusion directly on the subject matter, not on the assertion. In addition, such reports may emphasize certain matters relating to the attest engagement, the subject matter, or the assertion. The form of the practitioner's report will depend on whether the practitioner opines on the subject matter or the assertion..85 The practitioner's examination report on subject matter should include the following: a. A title that includes the word independent b. An identification of the subject matter and the responsible party c. A statement that the subject matter is the responsibility of the responsible party AT , AICPA

17 Attest Engagements 1277 d. A statement that the practitioner's responsibility is to express an opinion on the subject matter based on his or her examination e. A statement that the examination was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and, accordingly, included procedures that the practitioner considered necessary in the circumstances f. A statement that the practitioner believes the examination provides a reasonable basis for his or her opinion g. The practitioner's opinion on whether the subject matter is based on (or in conformity with) the criteria in all material respects h. A statement restricting the use of the report to specified parties under the following circumstances (see paragraphs.78.83): (1) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria (2) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to the specified parties (3) When a written assertion has not been provided by the responsible party (The practitioner should also include a statement to that effect in the introductory paragraph of the report.) i. The manual or printed signature of the practitioner's firm j. The date of the examination report Appendix A [paragraph.114], Examination Reports, includes a standard examination report on subject matter. (See example 1.).86 The practitioner's examination report on an assertion should include the following: a. A title that includes the word independent b. An identification of the assertion and the responsible party (When the assertion does not accompany the practitioner's report, the first paragraph of the report should also contain a statement of the assertion.) c. A statement that the assertion is the responsibility of the responsible party d. A statement that the practitioner's responsibility is to express an opinion on the assertion based on his or her examination e. A statement that the examination was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and, accordingly, included procedures that the practitioner considered necessary in the circumstances f. A statement that the practitioner believes the examination provides a reasonable basis for his or her opinion g. The practitioner's opinion on whether the assertion is presented (or fairly stated), in all material respects, based on the criteria (However, see paragraph.66.) h. A statement restricting the use of the report to specified parties under the following circumstances (see paragraphs.78.83): (1) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment 2015, AICPA AT

18 1278 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria (2) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to the specified parties i. The manual or printed signature of the practitioner's firm j. The date of the examination report Appendix A [paragraph.114] includes a standard examination report on an assertion. (See example 2.).87 Nothing precludes the practitioner from examining an assertion but opining directly on the subject matter. (See Appendix A [paragraph.114], example 3.) Review Reports.88 In a review report, the practitioner's conclusion should state whether any information came to the practitioner's attention on the basis of the work performed that indicates that (a) the subject matter is not based on (or in conformity with) the criteria or (b) the assertion is not presented (or fairly stated) in all material respects based on the criteria. (As discussed more fully in the commentary to the third reporting standard, if the subject matter or the assertion is not modified to correct for any such information that comes to the practitioner's attention, such information should be described in the practitioner's report.).89 The practitioner's review report on subject matter should include the following: a. A title that includes the word independent b. An identification of the subject matter and the responsible party c. A statement that the subject matter is the responsibility of the responsible party d. A statement that the review was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants e. A statement that a review is substantially less in scope than an examination, the objective of which is an expression of opinion on the subject matter, and accordingly, no such opinion is expressed f. A statement about whether the practitioner is aware of any material modifications that should be made to the subject matter in order for it to be based on (or in conformity with), in all material respects, the criteria, other than those modifications, if any, indicated in his or her report g. A statement restricting the use of the report to specified parties under the following circumstances (see paragraphs.78.83): (1) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria (2) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to the specified parties AT , AICPA

19 Attest Engagements 1279 (3) When a written assertion has not been provided by the responsible party and the responsible party is not the client (The practitioner should also include a statement to that effect in the introductory paragraph of the report.) h. The manual or printed signature of the practitioner's firm i. The date of the review report Appendix B [paragraph.115] Review Reports, includes a standard review report on subject matter. (See example 1.) Appendix B [paragraph.115] also includes a review report on subject matter that is the responsibility of a party other than client; the report is restricted as to use because a written assertion has not been provided by the responsible party. (See example 2.).90 The practitioner's review report on an assertion should include the following: a. A title that includes the word independent b. An identification of the assertion and the responsible party (When the assertion does not accompany the practitioner's report, the first paragraph of the report should also contain a statement of the assertion.) c. A statement that the assertion is the responsibility of the responsible party d. A statement that the review was conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants e. A statement that a review is substantially less in scope than an examination, the objective of which is an expression of opinion on the assertion, and accordingly, no such opinion is expressed f. A statement about whether the practitioner is aware of any material modifications that should be made to the assertion in order for it to be presented (or fairly stated), in all material respects, based on (or in conformity with) the criteria, other than those modifications, if any, indicated in his or her report (However, see paragraph.66.) g. A statement restricting the use of the report to specified parties under the following circumstances (see paragraphs.78.83): (1) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are determined by the practitioner to be appropriate only for a limited number of parties who either participated in their establishment or can be presumed to have an adequate understanding of the criteria (2) When the criteria used to evaluate the subject matter are available only to the specified parties h. The manual or printed signature of the practitioner's firm i. The date of the review report Appendix B [paragraph.115] includes a review report on an assertion that is restricted as to use because the criteria are available only to the specified parties. (See example 3.) 2015, AICPA AT

20 1280 Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements Other Information in a Client-Prepared Document Containing the Practitioner s Attest Report A client may publish various documents that contain information (hereinafter referred to as other information) in addition to the practitioner's attest report on subject matter (or on an assertion related thereto). Paragraphs provide guidance to the practitioner when the other information is contained in (a) annual reports to holders of securities or beneficial interests, annual reports of organizations for charitable or philanthropic purposes distributed to the public, and annual reports filed with regulatory authorities under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or (b) other documents to which the practitioner, at the client's request, devotes attention. These paragraphs are not applicable when an attest report appears in a registration statement filed under the Securities Act of (See AU-C section 920, Letters for Underwriters and Certain Other Requesting Parties, and AU-C section 925, Filings With the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Under the Securities Act of 1933.) Also, these paragraphs are not applicable to other information on which the practitioner or another practitioner is engaged to issue an opinion. [Revised, December 2012, to reflect conforming changes necessary due to the issuance of SAS Nos ].92 The practitioner's responsibility with respect to other information in such a document does not extend beyond the information identified in his or her report, and the practitioner has no obligation to perform any procedures to corroborate any other information contained in the document. However, the practitioner should read the other information not covered by the practitioner's report or by the report of the other practitioner and consider whether it, or the manner of its presentation, is materially inconsistent with the information appearing in the practitioner's report. If the practitioner believes that the other information is inconsistent with the information appearing in the practitioner's report, he or she should consider whether the practitioner's report requires revision. If the practitioner concludes that the report does not require revision, he or she should request the client to revise the other information. If the other information is not revised to eliminate the material inconsistency, the practitioner should consider other actions, such as revising his or her report to include an explanatory paragraph describing the material inconsistency, withholding the use of his or her report in the document, or withdrawing from the engagement..93 If, while reading the other information for the reasons set forth in paragraph.92, the practitioner becomes aware of information that he or she believes is a material misstatement of fact that is not a material inconsistency as described in paragraph.92, he or she should discuss the matter with the client. In connection with this discussion, the practitioner should consider that he or she may not have the expertise to assess the validity of the statement, that there may be no standards by which to assess its presentation, and that there may be valid differences of judgment or opinion. If the practitioner concludes he or she has a valid basis for concern, the practitioner should propose that the client consult with some other party whose advice may be useful, such as the entity's legal counsel. 18 Such guidance pertains only to other information in a client-prepared document. The practitioner has no responsibility to read information contained in documents of nonclients. Further, the practitioner is not required to read information contained in electronic sites, or to consider the consistency of other information in electronic sites with the original documents since electronic sites are a means of distributing information and are not "documents" as that term is used in this section. Practitioners may be asked by their clients to render attest services with respect to information in electronic sites, in which case, other attest standards may apply to those services. [Footnote renumbered by the issuance of SSAE No. 14, November 2006.] AT , AICPA

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